Beqa Lagoon Resort Shark Dive - But Not World Class Diving

Above is a video of the Shark Dive at Pacific Harbor and below is a TripAdvisor review I wrote for our trip to Beqa Lagoon, Fiji, in April.  As you will see it is not very flattering.  I am on a mission to get folks to tell the truth about dive locations and operations.  A fools errand I am sure but considering that you will spend thousands of dollars and up to 40 hours travelling half way around the world wouldn't you think that both the dive resort and fellow divers would want to tell the truth.  Well maybe not the dive resort!  World Class Diving it is not!

 TripAdvisor Review

We spent two weeks, diving two tanks for 12 days, with BLR in April 2014 and I want to focus on the diving and dive operation for this review.  As a point of reference this was our second dive trip to Fiji.  Our first trip to Fiji was to Taveuni diving the Somosomo Straits and then the Bligh Waters off of Viti Levu.  We are dive photographers with over 600 ocean dives each.  We have travelled the world for over 30 years, 20 of those years taking two to three dive trips per year.  We have considerable pacific diving experience, e.g., Palau, Yap, Great Barrier Reef, etc.  We maintain a diving blog and underwater photography site and provide recommendations on the best dive locations and travel tips to our followers.  If you are a seasoned diver with world class diving experience you will most likely be disappointed with the diving experience and the dive shop at BLR.  At each lagoon dive site we found the visibility to be extremely poor, generally around 75 feet or less, sometimes much less.  Not ideal for photography.  Because the lagoon is so shallow there is a lot of dead coral from storm damage and you spend a lot of time diving over dead coral.  The dive sites generally have a few coral heads and there really isn’t much to see until you get to the coral heads.  A great disappointment was the lack of big fish, I suspect this is due to spearfishing by the locals, we saw several small boats that were spearfishing near dive sites and learned that locals from Pacific Harbor came over at night to spearfish the dive sites.  Nor will you find large schools of fish such as jacks or snapper, actually there were not big schools of fish at all that we saw in 24 dives.  We did see a few small schools of barracuda and a shark or two, along with a few small turtles and small lobsters but no large ones.   We were also expecting an abundance of colorful soft corals but were disappointed that there were so few as compared to the abundance of colorful soft coral at Taveuni and the Bligh Waters.  The dive operation caters to large groups rather than your individual diving experience, so you will be diving with up to 16 or 22 divers of varying experience levels, mostly new divers.  No small boat diving option is available.  Even the shark dive, which is combined with another dive operation from Pacific Harbor, may have up to 32 divers in the water from the combined operations.  This is a lot of divers converging on one spot and for a seasoned diver it does take away an immense amount of pleasure by getting your mask knocked about and your head pounded by inexperienced divers hyped up on a shark induced adrenaline rush.  While the shark dive is billed as the “best”, we have experienced many and this one was good but not the best we have experienced by far.  BLR has plans to implement their own shark dive in the future, hopefully, they will keep it to a smaller group.  I was also disappointed that the dive guides had limited knowledge of the names of fish and critters.  They tend to focus on a select few, pre-written on their slate, to show guests but on several occasions I asked the name of an unusual find only to be told they didn’t know or they gave me a name, which I learned later was incorrect.  After each dive you are asked to give your time and depth to be recorded by the staff which was annoying especially since we were not given a printout of it at the end of our visit as promised.  The dive operation does not have any interest in taking divers to better dive locations located outside or just on the edge of the lagoon, requests are excused away, and as a result BLR dives the closer inner lagoon that has less than optimum diving.   We learned BLR may be providing future trips to better dive sites outside of the lagoon but for an additional upcharge. For experienced photographers the dive sites around BLR are also less than ideal and you would be better served choosing another dive location in Fiji, there are many to choose from including great liveaboards.  There was no camera table on our boat and the camera bucket sometimes had two or three layers of cameras stuffed in them, causing some divers to scurry to get their camera before any damage could occur.  The boats are old, slow and in need of maintenance which accounts for some of the reluctance to take divers to the more distant but far better dive locations.   There was tension between folks within the dive operation that clearly impacted the guest experience.  This tension along with a patronizing attitude to the guests and staff by the dive managers made for some very uncomfortable situations.  Upon departure my expectation as told to me by the dive manager was that our equipment would be cleaned.  It was dunked but not cleaned so when it dried there was salt water in the BC and it was encrusted with salt.  The level of diving at BLR is far from world class and I suspect that the puzzling high ratings given on Tripadvisor are from new or occasional divers that frequent cattle boat operations with groups and pronounce the diving is “world class” because they have limited comparative experience.  Comparing BLR to other dive operations in Fiji and around the Pacific, they fall quite short of the mark in providing a quality and memorable dive experience for their guests.  My hope is that seasoned divers reading this review will now have clear expectations when selecting their dive location and if they choose to go to BLR then they do so with level set expectations with regard to the quality of diving.  

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